I'm curious why some people, like me, play inverted. Is there any correlation between classic gamers playing with real joysticks and playing inverted now or any other sort of correlations? I'm looking for any sort of reasoning behind it and why my brain acts in reverse of "normal". I've tried to play normal for long periods of time in 2 player because I felt like a dick having to pause it before every match to change the option and I just can't do it.

I figure there's a scientific reason.

  • 1
    You mean for flight simulation? or other games?
    – M'vy
    May 30, 2011 at 8:53
  • All games... Flight games default to inverted most of the time, I believe, but I mean more for FPS, and other type games where you'd have this option. May 30, 2011 at 8:59
  • 4
    AFAIK Flight simulators default to "inverted" because that's how real life cloches work, but I might be wrong. (Then again, real life cloches accept three-dimensional input.)
    – badp
    May 30, 2011 at 9:02
  • I guess it's just how your mind is trained to behave, I meanif you try playing not inverted after a while (maybe a week or a month) you'll find it easier to play normal.
    – Ali1S232
    May 30, 2011 at 9:40
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    I guess im looking for any studies or explanations why people are wired that way. For example, there are studies why people are left and right handed May 30, 2011 at 17:44

7 Answers 7


There is no increase in performance. I majored in psychology and while there where no experiments specifically on games inverted vs non-inverted there are many studies on using remote devices where input is not only inverted but the left-right movement is also switched. These include not only machine operations but also surgical equipment. There is a penalty during the learning process but after a period of practice there was no difference in response times or accuracy for the controls being "backward". If you have a nearby university you can look up the papers in various psychology journals.

So @Edward Black the brain simply doesn't work like you think it does. It is so efficient because it can create shortcuts. Plus if you look up how the eyeball/brain work together you would see that your logic is simply wrong.

I know why I like to play inverted. I started gaming on the C64 and on a couple of the flight simulators I played you where forced to use the "inverted" control scheme. Those where the games I learned to control the y-axis on and that is what I continued to use.

  • 2
    I used to play FPSes and space shooters inverted. Then I played a tonne of Myst (which couldn't be inverted) and now I can't play FPSes or space shooters comfortably except on normal. +1 for science! May 31, 2011 at 18:14
  • This is the brain's perceptual adaptation, and it's even more amazing than that. If you wear glasses that invert your entire vision, your brain will adapt and soon that will become your new baseline normal!
    – Wikwocket
    Sep 21, 2012 at 15:31

It may have something to do with how you learned growing up.

If you grew up in the joystick era, you probably learned inverted. Before about 1994 there weren't many first-person perspective games that used up/down look. The most common 3D first-person game was the flight simulator, which adopted the inverted joystick control used by actual fighter jets. This set the standard for other games.

After about 1995, joysticks went out of fashion in favour of joypad controllers and keyboard/mouse. At the same time, first person shooters and 3D platformers became popular, and so the paradigm changed: instead of leaning the controller how you want to move, you moved the controller where you wanted to aim, like a mouse pointer.

If you learned to play inverted as a child, you may find it intuitive now, but someone who grew up with later games may have found "up = up" more natural to begin with.


It's simple. Your neck muscles work to pull your head back for looking up, and likewise push your head forward to look down. 'Inverted' controls aren't actually inverted; they're naturally mapped to the first person. 'Inverted' controls mimick this behaviour inherently, whilst the true inversion belongs to the way in which the 'forward' semantic means 'up'.

  • This explanation makes sense to me. It would also explain why I play inverted as far as looking with my character, but when I get in gunfights and the gun starts kicking up, it's instinctive for me to want to pull down on the joystick. In real life you would be adjusting your gun instead of your head, so down is down and up is up when controlling your arms, but down is up and up is down when controlling your head. Unfortunately there is no way to configure this type of setup in games.
    – Chrysus
    Sep 30, 2014 at 18:33

I used to play the "normal way" then I bought Perfect Dark for the n64, after completing the game to 100% including all cheat challenges, I wanted an added challenge, playing inverted did that for me, and once I had gotten used to the controls, I found that I played better, so I've played that way ever since.


The initial difference seems to be in how people view the controls. It's really about mentally mapping "push forward" = "tilt the view forward" vs. "push up" = "look up". Consider a coordinate system where the x-axis represents left/right, the y-axis is forward/backward, and the z-axis is up/down (so your monitor is [most likely] in the +y direction, and the ceiling is in the +z direction).

My mental mapping suggests the mouse moves on the xy plane, so pushing the mouse forward represents pushing it away from me and into the game world. The alternate mental mapping seems to suggest the mouse is "actually" moving on the xz plane, so pushing the mouse forward represents sliding it vertically up the monitor.

Of note: the first time I saw the option "invert mouse y-axis" where it meant "invert checked" = "forward is tilt forward" I was confused. Before that, the option meant "invert checked" = "up is to look up". So the term "inverted" is already a loaded question.

Other than your entry into 3D interfaces and how you initially map the controls, I imagine most of the preference is what you're accustomed to. Because I've been playing with the "forward" mentality for a very long time, I'm accustomed to it and prefer it. It's ingrained enough that I quit playing Eve Online about 10 minutes into the demo when I discovered there was no way to invert the camera control from the default "up" mentality while in space.

(For the record, I think Eve actually uses a "grab" mentality, where you're supposed to imagine you're grabbing the front of your spaceship, then spinning it the direction the mouse moves. The problem is that the entire game world spins with it, so my brain automatically reverts to the FPS-style control mentality.)


I believe the reason why some people opt to play inverted is because it allows for faster 'reflex shots'. In real life, when you want to look up, you pull your head back, and when down, up. Thus, your brain is wired to pull back to look up, and forward to look down.

To push forward to look up requires your brain to take an extra step, and slows down your reflexes in FPS games. It is a minuscule difference, but it is there.

  • 5
    Also, this should be the default. I'm tired of checking the checkbox in every game
    – juan
    May 30, 2011 at 13:28
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    @Juan FWIW, on the Xbox 360, you can set Inverted as the default in your profile, and all games will honor that. So that's something.
    – Adeese
    May 30, 2011 at 13:32
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    Do you have any citations for this? I've always thought that normal v. inverted is completely dependent on how the player learned to play. For example, when I play, I play with "Normal" settings, and if I switch to inverted I struggle. For me, my brain then has to take an extra step, and its noticeable. I've always thought it boils down to the player's muscle memory.
    – Weegee
    May 30, 2011 at 13:37
  • @Wee, as with everything, I think you get used to it by practicing. I know I could play normal if I used it for some time... but I prefer to just go with what I know and enjoy it :)
    – juan
    May 30, 2011 at 13:39
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    @Edward If anything that link has just made me even more skeptical. Out of the comments on that blog post, about 3/4 of them are people feeling the exact way I am about this; that this is more myth than fact. More importantly, I don't think a blog post written by a game reviewer who appears to have no formal Psychology or Neurology training is a great citation for this. I'm sorry, but my -1 stands. I think the answer here is much simpler than Mr. Robertson believes.
    – Weegee
    May 31, 2011 at 4:08

I always play FPS inverted on PC, i.e. using a mouse, because for some reason I just learned that way back in the mists of time. On console pads, I don't invert for some reason.

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